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The Focus Theme: How You Can Productively Aim Your CliftonStrengths Talent

The Focus Theme: How You Can Productively Aim Your CliftonStrengths Talent

by Albert L. Winseman, D.Min.

Gallup StrengthsFinder Focus definition: People exceptionally talented in the Focus theme can take a direction, follow through and make the corrections necessary to stay on track. They prioritize, then act.

I remember when my older daughter first got her glasses when she was about eight years old. We were driving home from the optometrist's office and she looked out the car window at a stop light and said, "Wow, Dad, I can see the individual leaves on the trees!" The world had come into focus for her -- illustrating the need for and the power of focus.

Clarity of vision, prioritization and the elimination of distractions produce a clear, compelling picture of goals that those with Focus naturally create and then continue to work to achieve high performance at work and everywhere else. There is an inherent concentration in Focus that blocks out all the noise -- both literally and figuratively. It is not uncommon for students with strong Focus talents to be able to study anywhere, anytime, tuning out all the noise and distractions that would impede the concentration of most others.

Focus sees the end goal and then sets out to achieve it. Those high in the Focus StrengthsFinder theme like to get a lot accomplished, but make conscious decisions about which tasks to undertake; only tasks that get them closer to the goal are worth completing.

Focus: Helps and Hinders

When coaching those with Focus in their Top 5, helping them claim both the "helps" and the "hinders" of the theme is critical to productive aiming. Some common helps and hinders of Focus include:


  • You create goals, prioritize and set a direction. This not only helps you make and keep track of your progress but also is an advantage for the teams you are a part of.
  • You plan your work -- and work your plan -- creating timelines and setting milestones. This keeps you and your team moving forward.
  • You have an innate ability to tune out distractions. This allows you to "keep your eyes on the prize" and get results -- for yourself and your team.
  • As a team leader, you help the team raise the bar and set stretch goals. Efficiency and productivity increase as you help your team reach the next level.


  • You can get so engrossed in what you are doing that you may often neglect the needs of others -- especially if you are a team leader. Be intentional about scheduling time to connect with the members of your team.
  • Your intense single-mindedness in pursuit of a goal may blind you to alternatives that would more efficiently and effectively gain you the results you seek. You may "ram the wall" over and over again until you break through -- not considering that it might be better to go around, under or over it.
  • Because of your intense Focus, you may be perceived as inflexible and unwilling to consider new information -- once your mind is made up, you tend to "go for it." Be intentional about seeking input from others and exploring new options.
  • You may be perceived as "aloof and unapproachable" -- even if you have an "open door" policy. An open-door policy is effective only if you notice when someone is at the door. Situate your workstation so it faces the door -- so you can see who's there.

Focus: Self-Awareness, Self-Expression, Self-Regulation

In order to productively aim Focus -- or any -- talents at a particular goal, an individual must have: 1) self-awareness about the theme's power, edge and vulnerabilities; 2) an understanding of how the theme finds expression in day-to-day thinking, feeling and behaving; and 3) knowledge of how to regulate the theme to maximize the potential positive outcomes that can be realized through intentionally applying a strengths-based approach. Coaches can help clients with strong Focus talents by exploring the following:


  • The Power and Edge of Focus: Those with Focus among their Signature Themes are able to set goals and prioritize actions that will help them achieve their goals. They determine what they want to accomplish and then set out to make it happen.
  • The Vulnerabilities of Focus: With their single-minded intensity, those with strong Focus can fail to take in and apply new information that would make them even more effective. They also may be so intent on accomplishing their priorities that they shortchange their relationships with others.


Coaches can assist clients in realizing and claiming the expression of Focus by helping them explore instances in the past when this theme was particularly useful. To facilitate this exploration, coaches can ask the following questions:

  • What makes a great day for you?
  • How do you assess, keep track of and adjust your priorities?
  • What has been your greatest success -- either at work or in your personal life? How did your Focus talents contribute to that success?
  • When was a recent time that you helped someone set goals and create steps to achieve them? What was the result?


Self-Regulation occurs when individuals know which of their talents to use in particular situations, or know which talents to combine to amplify or accelerate a specific talent, or to soften or moderate that talent. For example, sometimes those with strong Focus talents can get so intent on the desired outcomes of a project that they fail to recognize and invest in interpersonal relationships that are key to the success of a high-functioning team. In situations like this, a coach can help the client find other talents that might yield better results. Also, coaches can help clients explore different theme combinations. Below are some possible combinations that will either sharpen or moderate Focus:

Focus: Five Powerful Questions for Productive Aiming

  • How do you know you are achieving the right outcomes? How do you incorporate new information into your prioritization process?
  • What are you most proud of in your life? How can you do more of what makes you proud?
  • What is your biggest challenge right now? How are you prioritizing people, time and resources to meet this challenge?
  • What situation at work or in your personal life is scattered, distracted and suffering from unclear goals? How can you help? How will you help?
  • What relationships in your life need your focused attention? How will you make these relationships a priority so they get the attention they deserve from you?

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:


Al Winseman's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Futuristic, Maximizer, Strategic and Command.

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